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Full text of "The Life of Cleretta Nora Avery, the Wonderful Colored Girl Preacher"

; * TJHE LIFE OF V / 

Cleretta Nor§ Avery, 



-TH v 



Wonderful Color'-;! Girl Preacher 



Eleven Ye irs of Age, 
AND HER WOW" "IN NEW YORK; 



From Her Do I* -J to the Pulpit. 



By MRS. V gt AVERY, 



CARTH.'- G-E, N. C. 

• 4 ■ 



Record Job PkiVu, Wilmington, N. C. 



THE LIFE OF 

Cleretta Nora Avery, 

THE 

Wonderful Colored Girl Preacher 

OF 

Eleven Years of Age, 

AND HER WORK IN NEW YORK. 



From Her Dolls to the Pulpit. 

^y. 

By MRS. V. G. AVERY, 

CARTHAGE, N. C. 
1897. 



Record Job Print, Wilmington, N. C. 

* 



The Wonderful Colored Girl Preacher. 



CHAPTER I. 

Birth — Parentage, Early Conversion and Preparation for her 

Work. 

CLERETTA NORA AVERY, the wonderful and famous ten year old 
colored girl preacher, inspired evangelist and powerful revivalist, was 
born in the city of Washington, D. C, September 18th, 1885. She is the 
second child of her parents, her infant brother having died about fifteen 
years before she was born. 

Cleretta's mother, Mrs. Victoria G. Avery, was originally Miss Victoria 
Georgie Andrews, a women of remarkable intelligence, industrious habits, 
high character, and fine personal appearance, who was born in Pensacola, 
Florida, about the year 1846, of African and Spanish parentage. Her par- 
ents died early in life, and when but a very small child Victoria was car- 
ried to Mobile, Alabama. During the dark and terrible days of the civil 
war^ when many slaves were making there escape across the lines to the 
free lands of the North and Northwest, and many others in the South were in 
danger of being captured by the Federal troops and liberated — in those 
dark days that tried men's souls — Victoria was removed from Alabama to 
Texas. She remained there until the first year of the war, when an at- 
tempt was made to sell her as a slave. She made her escape by disguising 
herself as a Spaniard, which was quite natural and because of her Spanish 
color and features, and ability to speak that language, and by riding a dis- 
tance of about three hundred and fifty miles on horseback into Mexico. 
Hera she remained several years, acquired a more perfect knowledge of the 
Spanish language and customs, mingled freely with the best classes in that 
country by reason of her intelligence and personal beauty, and was every- 
where received as a cultivated Mexican woman. Many interesting lectures 
have been given by Mrs. Avery on this period of her life, in which she re- 
lates the many thrilling experiences through which she passed during the 
many years of her early life spent in Texas and Mexico. 

After the war Victoria returned to Mobile and married an early acquaint- 
ance and friend of her childhood days, Moses Brown Avery. Mr. Avery 
was a remarkably intelligent, industrious and conscientious man, who was 
born, also, in Pensacola, Florida, and was about fourteen years her senior. 



4 



He came of intelligent and well-to-do parentage, his father having been an 
associate of and a co-laborer with Fred. Douglass, James Summerville, 
Willis Pope and other distinguished colored men who played a prominent 
part in the anti-slavery and abolition movement before the late unpleasant- 
ness. 

Early in life Moses B. Avery embraced religion and united himself with 
the Methodist Episcopal Church, North, where, shortly afterward, he was 
ordained a minister of the gospel. It was not long after this that his 
ardent love for his race, and his desire to be more fully identified with his 
people in all enterprises looking to their advancement forced him to trans- 
fer his Church membership to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion 
Church connection. In the conferences of this church he was soon recog- 
nized as a strong and influential man, an independent thinker, and an out- 
spoken leader among his brethren. 

Though much of Mr. Avery's time and energies were devoted to the 
preaching of the Gospel and the performance of church duties in the towns 
and cities of the Southwest, where his appointments were generally located, 
yet he always maintained a lively interest in the Christian education of his 
race and did much to advance the general education of the colored people 
in the States of Louisana and Mississippi. Besides advocating liberal state 
appropriations for colored public schools in the religious paper of which 
he was editor and proprietor, he founded educational institutions and be- 
came principal himself for a time of several local schools in the South and 
Southwest that are now accomplishing much good and are great levers in 
the elevation of the colored race. Mr. Avery was generally regarded as a 
man of strong convictions, a bold and fearless writer and an eloquent 
speaker. He was always true and devoted to the interests of his race, for 
whom he suffered many things while advocating their civil and political 
rights and privileges; and in one particular instance he was known to have 
forfeited thiee thousand dollars to. help a poor unfortunate colored man 
out of a difhulty. 

During the last few years of his life the Rev. Avery did the work of an 
evangelist, for which he had special qualifications, mainly in the State of 
North Carolina, whither he had removed, and traveled around exhibiting a 
panorama of Biblical scenes, until his death at Aberdeen, N. C, in May, 
1895, in his sixty-third year of age, beloved by his many brethren and 
friends and mourned by a faithful wife and affectionate daughter. 

Cleretta was converted when about eighteen months old. Many persons 
have been inclined to doubt this statement, but when it is remembered 
that Samuel and John the Baptist were accepted and blessed by the Lord, 



5 



when infants, and that many eminent Christians date their conversion from 
so early an age that they can scarcely recall the momentous change, it will 
be admitted that God is able "to choose the weak things of the world to 
confound the things which are mighty, 1 ' and "out of the mouths of babes 
and sucklings" to ordain strength and perfect praise. Cleretta's early re- 
generation was not impossible, for God has "hid these things from the wise 
and prudent and has revealed them unto'babes." 

In preaching she always refers to her early change of heart in words like 
these: "I was converted when a year and a half old. I remember quite 
well the day when I felt a new love in my heart and I became acquainted 
with Jesus, knowing him for myself. Some people say that my father or 
mother or somebody told me so; yes, it Avas my father, but he was my 
heaver; ly Father. You may doubt it, but since God knows it and I know 
it, I am quite well satisfied, God's Holy Spirit can acquaint a little child 
with Himself before that child knows its parents." y 

In the early development of the intellect and tastes of the subject of this 
sketch could be rea,dily seen the sure siirns of her coming greatness. She 
was a remarkable child; thoughtful, prayerful, reverent, obedient and to 
this day she is a strong advocate of temperance. But let it not be pre- 
sumed that she is ignorant of the ways and wiles of children. She was 
fond of her many dolls and playthings, and like the great Chalmers, who, 
when three years old was found standing on a chair in the nursery preach- 
ing to an audience of one little girl from the text "Let brotherly love con- 
tinue," so Cleretta delights "1o play preaching" with children smaller 
than herself. Her love for her dolls may be seen from the following inter- 
view with her, which appeared in the New York Recorder, November 
23rd. 1895: 

"Cleretta Avery, the colored child preacher, with whose eloquence the 
readers of the Recorder are already familiar, will preach at the J. S. Wil- 
liamson Mission, 125 West third street, this evening at 8 o'clock, and again 
at the Baptist Church in Waverly Place, on Sunday night. 

That she is truly a most remarkable child has been evinced; that she is a 
phenomenon is not to be doubted. She is a demure little thing, with big 
black eyes and a serious expression. She has a frail little figure and a 
head of abnormal shape. 

The mixture of childish fancies and maturity of brain ability gives her a 
peculiarly odd manner. 

"Cleretta has a most v^onderful collection of dolls, numbering in all 
about 150. In telling about them she said: "T only bought a very few. 
Some of them are china, some kid — different kinds, you know. They are 



6 



all white except one. That I bought. I have only two boy dolls - . I can't 
remember all their names, of course. One is named Adler. How do I 
spell it? A-d-l-e-r, I reckon, and one is named Tonet, after Mrs. Gen. 
Greely's two little girls in Washington. My biggest doll is named after 
me and the smallest one isn't named." 

Then she brought forth from the recesses of a large trunk some remark- 
ably Sj ecimens of her family. One bisque young lady with flaxen curls 
wore a gown of red with lace and steel ornaments, such as was never seen, 
even at the Horse Show, and such a hat as must have filled its sawdust heart 
with pride. 'Tier name is Mamie T " she said. 

"Which one do you love best of all," asked the Recorder woman ?' Then 
that little lady displayed the chief characteristic of her sex, for she replied 
innocently: 'T love one of my boy dolls best." 

Then she told all about the object of her affections. "His name is 
Piince Albert. He has curls hanging down around his neck. He wore a 
blue suit* and it had a pocket. I play house, have church, parties and 
marriages." 

"Are your children religious ?" 

"Some of them say their prayers. I don't have time to make them all 
kneel; there are so many of them. Some of them are school-teachers. We 
children had a school in Oxford, N. 0., I had a church at my house; that's, 
where my first revival took place." 

From discussing the dolls' school her conversation drifted to her own 
education. 

"Do you read fairy tales ?" 

"Some." 

"Do you believe in fairies ?" 

"I don't know— maybe. I suppose so. I never saw one. There is one 
piece I like in Mother Goose— That is l Polly put the kettle on.' I like it 
because its the first piece I ever learned." 

"Which do you like to read most — fairy tales, Mother Goose, or your 
little Bible ?" asked the reporter. 

"My Bible, because, said she," with emphasis, "because I can't carry 
my other books traveling." 

"Are you afraid of the dark ?" 

"No, not at all." 

Then she chattered on about Thanksgiving and Christmas. 
"I don't hang up my stocking because I have a tree. I'd like to see 
Santa Claus." 

"What's Thanksgivir.g for?" 



7 



"It's to give thanks to the Lord for sparing us from one Thanksgiving 
Day to the next." 

She had never heard of the New Woman, and did not receive the descrip- 
tion of one with enthusiasm. 

"I wouldn't think it right, because I think a woman should keep in her 
place," was her comment. 

The little preacher has never been to a party, but has given birthday en- 
tertainments. When asked how they were conducted she said: 

"We sing, and pray, have cakes, ice cream and candy." 

"Don't you ever play 'Puss in the Corner 1 or 'Drop the Handkerchief?" 

"I have played that last. But there is a way they play it with a song 
and I think that is wrong. There is sin in a song that has'nt religion in it. 

When asked about dancing she replied with conviction: "Once dancing 
was used in a way of praising the Lord, but now we make a sin of it, be- 
cause we put our whole heart and soul in it, and take our minds off of 
Jesus." 

"Is your mind never off Him for an instant?" 
• "Never." 

"Not even at a Thanksgiving dinner, where there is turkey, and cranber- 
ries and plum pudding ?" t 
"Never." 

CHAPTER II. 

Called to the Ministry— Evangelistic Work in the South— Over- 
flowing Congregations — Entering School— Invited 
to New York. 

When about seven years of age, Cleretta announced to her parents her 
divine call to preach the Gospel but they tried to discourage her and to 
divert her from this purpose by telling her that she was too young and un- 
informed in the Scriptures to attempt and undertake so responsible and 
important a work. But, nothing daunted, she insisted and announced to 
her friends that God had commanded and commissioned her to proclaim 
His truth to the people; and, therefore, she preached her first sermon at a 
camp meeting at Raleigh, N. C, August 17th, 1893. When it is remem- 
bered that this little girl-preacher, or "pickaninny preacher," as she is 
generally called, had never attended school, but was taught simply to read 
by her parents, it was certainly marvelous to behold the command of lan- 
guage, knowledge of the Bible and elocutionary powers exhibited by her 
in this her first sermon, of one half hour long, delivered to a large congre- 



8 



gation. That sermon made her famous. Invitations to preach from 
churches and from white and colored people in the adjoining cities and 
towns poured in upon this tiny little preacher. Cleretta and her mother 
started out at once u on an evangelistic tour, in which the inspired little 
preacher did the preaching and praying, and Mrs. Avery conducted the 
singing. Large revivals were held at Cheraw, Society Hill, Florence, 
Georgetown, Darlington, and many other places in North and South Car- 
olina, in which hundreds of grown persons and many children were truly 
converted. A reporter of the News and Courier, the leading paper in South 
Carolina, gives the following account of her preaching recently at Darling- 
ton, South Carolina: 

"For two weeks past Cleretta Nora Avery, a little nine-year-old colored 
girl, has been creating a sensation here. She is a little girl preacher, and 
during her entire stay she has preached three sermons daily, and whites 
and blacks, the latter especially, attended the services in large numbers. 
In this extremely hot weather she shows no fatigue, her voice did not fail 
at all, and, strange to say, she has said nothing that should not have been 
said. She is small, weighing sixty or seventy-five pounds, probably. In 
size, manner and general appearance she is a child, and from this stand- 
point she is most remarkable. 

"Her sermons are never argumentative nor discussive, but she frequently 
states thoughts and ideas well worth thinking over. A vein of pathos goes 
through all that she says, and her vividly picturesque and poetic style often 
carries away the colored portion of her hearers. She seems to have a vague 
dread of eternity, and always alludes to this vast unknown as 'way over 
yonder. ' 

"She is young, small of stature, and is, beyond doubt, a little child, and 
yet she preaches sermons that have made their impression upon all who 
heard, and this is the 'simple wonder' of it all. Her face is quiet and 
thoughtful, and universal comment has been made about the expression of 
her eyes. They are large, brown, and thoiightful, very expressive and 
luminous, varying but little throughout her entire sermon, always keeping 
a steady gleam that changes occasionally, but never very much. 

"Her manner when speaking on any subject is not childish; on the con- 
trary, she is calm, deliberate and remarkably self-possessed, and talks of 
religion as a mature Christian would. She makes no notes of what she in- 
tends saying, but after reading a few verses from the Bible she announces 
her subject, and generarly sticks to it; closes the Book and says what she 
has to say. She has all the style in voice, intonation, delivery and gesture 
of an experienced pulpit speaker. Her speech is fluent and easy, her 



voice is modulated, and in approaching a climax she suggests at times the 
Idea that she is mimicking some preacher, so faithfully does she reproduce 
what we see and hear so often. No matter how large the congregation, 
liow many whites are present, or how much shouting is done, she seems to 
be thinking only of what she is saying, and nothing distracts her or claims 
any share of her attention.' 1 

When it is remembered that this * 'little girl preacher, 1 ' as she is gene- 
rally called, never had the opportunity of attending school but was taught 
simply to read by her parents, it is certainly marvelous to behold her com* 
mand of language, knowledge of the Bible, and elocutionary powers. 

Cleretta came to Charleston, S. C, early this fall to enter and connect 
herself with the Charleston Industrial Institute and Home for Girls, an in- 
stitution founded a few years ago by a number of leading colored ministers 
and laymen of this city for the intellectual, moral and industrial training 
of some of the thousands of colored boys and girls who are without any 
school facilities in this city, and are therefore growing up in ignorance, 
idleness and crime. The demand for her to preach was very great, 
and during four weeks she has packed several of the largest colored 
churches three times a day with large crowds of white and colored people, 
and many persons have been added to the colored churches as the result of 
her preaching. Under the heading of "An Infant Phenomenon' ' the News 
and Courier of a recent date has the following concerning this little 
prodigy: 

"This little girl preacher, Cleretta Nora Avery of whom there has been 
so much talk in the up country, is now in Charleston, and has during the 
past week been preaching at the Morris-street Baptist Church before large 
audiences. Yesterday the little girl preached morning, afternoon and 
evening, and the crowds were larger that before. At the afternoon service 
the church was crowded and seats were placed in the aisles near the plat- 
form, and a large number of white ladies were present. The platform was 
occupied by the pastor, the Rev. J. L. Dart, the elder, Mrs. Avery, and 
Cleretta Avery, the girl preacher. The child, for she is but ten years old, 
and looks younger, sat in a large chair to the right and scanned with in» 
terest the audience. She has large, pretty eyes, good features and a dark 
olive complexion. Sitting in the chair her heelless shoes were two inches 
from the floor. She w T as tastefully dressed in black and wore a soft felt 
hat. Mr. Dart, in introducing the little preacher, said that she had been 
suffering with a bad cold for several days, but was, nevertheless, anxious 
to essay this, her second service that day. 

"Cleretta Avery then came to the improvised reading desk (the regular 



10 



one having been temporarily displaced on account of its height), read a 
portion of the second chapter of Matthew r and made a prayer, simple, yet 
complete— a prayer for strength and keener sight. 'Oh, Lord,' said this, 
childish petitioner in closing, * even what we fail to ask for do not fail to 
give us.' Her voice was low and tremulous at first, but when, after a 
hymn by the congregation, she read out the subject of her discourse, it 
was strangely resonant and clear. Her gestures were good and her manner 
very earnest. She read the portions of St. John which precede the raising 
of Lazarus, and selected from them several sentences to emphasize it. 
"Jesus is the resurrection,' she said, 'and in Him we shall live and never 
die. The immortal soul must live, but, oh, my friends, shall it live with 
God in heaven or with the devil in hell ? If \ve believe in the Savior we 
know He has saved us and others can be saved. It is for us to help the 
sinners and turn them around. 1 wish I could see every sinner turned 
around and marching to eternal glory. 

•' 'We know there is a God; we know that Jesus can do .all things. 
Look! He speaks to the winds and the storms, and all is peace. He is 
the resurrection. He holds the keys of death and hell Dear friends, the 
time is soon coining when you will stand near the door. Will He say to 
you, "Come with me to heaven," or send you down to hell ? We want to 
get ready. If we must live and never die, let it be where there is rest. 
Many of us have friends who have gone before us; shall we not meet them 
again in the joys of heaven, when Gabriel blows his trumpet and the graves 
give up their dead ? 

" 'Friends, Jesus is a mighty captain; He is a mighty doctor. When we 
need a leader He comes to us; when we are ill He comforts us. He is our 
friend when all others fail us. 

" 'If sinners only knew the dangerous path they are following they 
would turn back — the path that leads to hell. I can imagine I hear the 
doomed ones in hell warning the sinners to turn back. We want the 
Christians to be true and pure and fight until the war is over. We want 
sinners to join this army. No one knows how sweet is religion until they 
have it. Sinners, oh! make up your minds and change from nature to 
grace before it is too late. The angels are beckoning to you; do not say 
you cannot give up the world and its pleasures. Turn all around and ac- 
cept grace. You are walking on the brink of hell. Many sinners are 
allowed to return from the very edge of hell that they may repent. Chris- 
tions, if the spark is nearly out, if you are almost in despair, go to Jesus; 
He will renew your strength. Sinners, we want you to get religion. You 
will see no great wonders, but you will be so happy ! You will love the 



11 



whole world and wish you could take everybody in your arms and fly away 
to Heaven. Christians, fight until the war is ended, I have entered the 
fight and for more than a year have done my best. I am not weary. I 
will fight until I go to Jesus. Pray for'me, my friends; I need your pray- 
ers, we all need prayer, and I will pray for you, that you may live and 
never die, with Jesus, who is the resurrection." 

The fame of this little colored girl preacher has reached the great me. 
tropolis, and the prominent papers of New York , have invited Cleretta to 
visit that city. She has invitations from 'many places to preach, and sev- 
eral white and colored friends have written beautiful letters to her about 
her preaching and work. 

Among the many letters she received on this tour of preaching is the 
following: 

Lester, Marlboro County, S. C, Ausrust 26, 1895. 
Miss Cleretta Avery : 

Dear Miss : — Having had the pleasure of hearing you preach twice in 
Bennettsville yesterday — morning and in the afternoon— I am more than 
anxious to he#r you preach again. After hearing and seeing you for my- 
self I am satisfied that you are all you claim to be. Several of my race — I 
am an Anglo-Saxon — believe you are a humbug; but to all such I say " go 
and hear for yourself, and do not believe me only and you will be certainly 
convinced." I believe you are a child, inspired by our precious, heavenly 
father to tell to all that Jesus died to save sinners, My object in writing 
you this letter is this; I am anxious to have a history of yourself. Please 
write a brief, condensed history of yourself and send it to me by mail. Do 
me the kindness to give the following particulars : date of your birth, age 
at which you first knew right from wrong, age a1 your conversion, your 
present age, how long you have been preaching, do you prepare your ser- 
mons, your full name and the names of your parents, also your birthplace 
and that of your parents. If you do not answer letters please have your 
mother answer this one. You will remember me, perhaps, as the young white 
man who gave you some money and shook hands with you in the colored 
Baptist Church of Bennettsville, after preaching yesterday morning. If 
you will keep me posted as to your address I will send you small sums of 
money at intervals to help you carry on the work of rescuing souls, 
i Wishing you God-speed in your glorious work and trusting that God 
may give you many souls for your work as stars in your crown, I beg, dear 
sister, to remain, 

Yours fraternally, 

ROBERT L. PEARSON, 

Postmaster. 



12 



We know there is a God; we know that Jesus can do all things! Look! 
He speaks to the wind and the storm and all is peace. He is the resur- 
rection. He holds the keys of death and hell. Dear friends, the time is 
soon coming when you will stand near the door, will He say to you, 'Come 
with me to heaven, or send you down to hell. We want you to get ready. 
If we must live and never die, let it he where there is rest. Many of us 
have friends who have gone before us, shall we not meet them again in the 
joys of heaven, when Gabriel blows his trumpet and the graves give up 
their dead ? 

Friends, Jesus is a mighty Captain; He is a mighty Doctor. When we 
need a leader, He comes to us; when we are ill he comforts us. He is our 
friend when all others fail us. 

If sinners only knew the dangerous path they are following they would 
turn back, the path that leads to hell. I can imagine I hear the doomed 
ones in hell warning the sinner to turn. We want the Christians to be true 
and pure and fight until the war is over. We want sinners to join this 
army. No one knows how sweet is religion until they have it. Sinners, 
Oh ! make up your minds and change from nature to grace before it is too 
late. The angels are beckoning to you, do not say you cannot give up the 
world and its pleasures. Turn all around and accept grace. You are 
walking on the brink of hell. Many sinners are allowed to return from the 
very edge of hell that they may repent. Christians, if the spark is nearly 
out, if you are almost in despair, go to Jesus; He will renew your strength. 
Sinners, we want you to get religion. You will see no great wonders, but 
you will be so happy! You will love the whole world, and wish you 
could take everybody in your arms and fly away to heaven. Christians, 
fight until the war is ended. I have entered the fight, and for more than a 
year have done by best. I am not weary. I will fight until I go to Jesus. 
Pray for me, my friends. I need your prayers; we all need prayers, and I 
will pray for you, that you may live and never die, with Jesus, who is the 
resurrection. 

The newspapers of the country generally took up the remarkable preach- 
ing of this wonderful colored child. She received many letters and invi- 
tations from prominent ministers in the leading cities of the North and 
South. And as she desired to help in the development of that worthy in- 
stitution at Charleston, where she had received some literary instruction, 
by erecting there a building for the instruction of friendless and destitute 
colored girls, Cleretta decided to visit New York city for a few months. 
The New York Sun of October 15th, 1895, gave the following account of 
Cleretta's preaching in the Carolinas: 



13 



" A South Carolina pickaninny — she may be called that, for she is in the 
9th year of her age and black — is preaching the Gospel with power to the 
sinners of that State. She began to exhort when 7 years old, and she has 
labored both in North Carolina and South Carolina since that time. She is 
described as a prodigy, and her sermons are said to be wonderful. Re- 
cently, when preaching in Marlboro County, both blacks and whites 
crowded to hear her. Large numbers of sinners are converted through 
her stirring appeals. At Oxford her converts numbered 150; at Wades- 
boro, 50; at Sanford, 34; at Marion, 39; at Society Hill 22; at Vass, 10, 
and at other places yet more. The ten converts at Vass were the fruits of 
a single day's work. She does not always compose her own sermons; she 
can repeat any sermon which she has once heard. White sinners as well 
as black are among her converts. She can recite whole chapters of the 
Uospel. Her first name is Cleretta. 

"We can say to this preaching pickaninny that there is a large field for 
her among the black people of this city, very many of whom are flagrant 
sinners, tough as any in South Carolina. She can easily find a place in 
which to preach here; and if her eloquence is as captivating as the Rev. 
Mr. Streater says it is, white people as well as colored will enjoy it. We 
have no preacher of that kind here. Madison Square Garden might be 
hired for her. We promise to give a full report of the first sermon she de- 
livers in this city, if it is up to the mark. 

About the middle of November following, Cleretta, her mother and the 
Rev. J. L. Dart left that city for the great metropolis, taking with them 
the benedictions of many, and several letters of commendation of which 
the following is a specimen : 

Charleston, S. C, October 28th, 1895. 

Bear Brethren of the Ministry: 

I take special pleasure in commending to your favor Miss Cleretta Nora 
Avery, the little girl preacher. She has done much good in this city. She 
is not only a great wonder, but a mighty power, and is capable of doing 
much good for the Master's cause by her preaching. She certainly must 
be inspired. She preached nine sermons in my church to immense crowds, 
and her sermons aroused my entire Church and resulted in the conversion 
of many precious souls. I have never seen such a stir among the people 
in my life as she caused in this city in all the churches. 

Yours most truly, 

J. H. WELCH, 
Pastor Mt. Zion A. M. E. Church. 



14 



CHAPTER III. 

Cleretta Visits New York — Creates a Great Sensation — Evange- 
listic Work— Letters. 

From the day of arrival of the little "Pickanniny preacher" and her at- 
tendants in New York City until Christmas morning, when we left, Cle- 
retta was kept very busy. It was soon noised abroad that the little child 
wonder had reached the great metropolis. Numerous newspaper reporters 
and writers for almost every paper in that great city called and had lengthy 
interviews with her. These reporters followed us from church to church, 
and from city to city, and they devoted two and three columns of their 
papers to full reports of Cleretta' s sermons, and in some cases gave large, 
life-sized illustrations of her. These sermons, pictures and attractive 
headlines in the New York Sun, Herald,- Journal, Advertiser, Recorder, 
World, Press, and other leading papers created a decided sensation among 
all the people of that city. The pastors of several of the leading white 
and colored churches in New York, Brooklyn and the adjoining cities and 
towns came to us and invited Cleretta to preach to their congregations. In 
these churches during her six weeks stay in the North, the little preacher 
addressed more than 100,000 persons and preached more than one hun- 
dred sermons, speaking four times a r day, sometimes. The churches, the 
Gospel missions, the John's Street Noonday Prayer Meeting and other 
places were crowded to hear her. 

Hundreds were happily converted. On one occasion, at the Mount Oli- 
vet Baptist Chinch, New York, when she had finished her sermon and 
many persons rushed forward and requested her to pray for them, which 
she did, and at the conclusion of the service ten persons arose and de- 
clared that they had found a hope in the Saviour. Cleretta is truly a win- 
ner of souls, and all her converts loved her and many of them followed her 
from church to church. She corresponds with many of them regularly, 
and thus encourages them to hold fast to Christ. 

We shall bring this sketch of the life of Cleretta Nora Avery to a close 
by inserting a few of the many letters that we have received from the North 
since our little preacher returned to her Sunny South, where she is now 
preaching and conducting large revivals, and fitting herself by careful 
study for greater usefulness in the future. 

This letter is from the pastor of the Macdougal Street Baptist Church, 
(white) of New York : 

New York, February 13th. 
My Dear Dr. Dart :— I am glad that you and the little girl preacher 
and her mother have reached your homes in safety and you feel rested 



15 



after your laborious trip up North. I shall always cherish the remem- 
brance of your service in my church. It was the beginning of good things 
to us. When I offered you the church I was alorie; neither trustees nor 
deacons liked the idea, but they did not oppose me. But after the service 
they were all delighted with the little girl, and our church has been in a 
state of revival ever since. I regard the little girl preacher a marvel, and 
I feel that there are great possibilities in her. I hope that many clergymen 
will follow our example and open their doors wide for the little preacher 
that she may in her own peculiar, pathetic way — a preacher sui g eneris — 
point sinners to the Mighty to save. 

I remain yours truly, 

D. V. GWILYM. 

The next letter is from the honored pastor of a large church in New 
Jersey : 

East Orange, N. J., February 13th. 
Dear Brother : — I wish to say that Cleretta Nora Avery is truly won- 
der of the age. She made a lasting impression upon the minds of her 
Orange congregations. All who heard her took knowledge of her that she 
had been with Jesus. Her command of language, musical voice, graceful 
gestures, profound thought, clear conception of the Word of God, vivid' 
illustration, and magic influence over the hearts of men stamp her as a 
born linguist, thinker, orator and preacher. 

Yours truly, 

GEO. E. READ. 

Our last letter is from the Rev. Dr. J. S. Caldwell, pastor of the A. M. E. 
Zion Church, New York : 

Dear Brother : — I take pleasure in stating for the benefit of the public 
that Cleretta Nora Avery started her Northern Evangelistic work in my 
church in the city of New York. She addressed an audience of nearly 
3,000 people for at least twenty-five minutes, holding them spell-bound 
while she delivered to them the simple Gospel truth. I am convinced 
that the child is sent from God and has a God-given message to proclaim 
to the world. She ought to be seen and heard in every town and hamlet 
of our country, if it is possible New York was stirred up by her simple 
preaching as deeply as though it had been a Moody or a Sam Jones. 

Yours in Gospel Bonds, 

J. S. CALDWELL, 
Pastor A. M. E. Zion Church. 

In conclusion we desire to return sincere thanks to the host of friends 
of the little girl preacher for the many kindnesses shown to herself and the 



16 



educational cause which she represents, and to request the continuance of 
their prayers that she might be thoroughly educated, filled with the Holy 
Spirit and accomplish much good for God and her people in her day and 
generation. 

The Wonder of Wonders. 
[From the Wilmington, (N. C) Becord.] 

The preaching of Cleretta Nora Avery is the wonder of this century. A 
wee bit of humanity, appearing when one first looks upon her as a mere 
school girl preparing to '"recite her piece;" but after she has introduced 
her subject and begins her sermon, the little girl begins to grow and ex- 
pand until one sees before him — not the little girl — but a powerful woman, 
a variatable giant intelligence and inspiration. Her sermons are forceful, 
logical and with all eloquent. 

Cleretta's father was a minister and it seem that the work begun by the 
father is being completed by the daughter. As the mantle fell from Eli- 
jah uponElisha, so it seems that the mantle of inspiration has fallen upon 
this wonderful colored child. It is claimed for her that she was converted 
at the age of 18 months. Be this is as it may her preaching is wonderful 
as the great crowds which follow her from place to place will attest. 



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